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Say ‘deh-leeeev-erry’: The delivery culture in Buenos Aires

When I moved to Buenos Aires in September of 2010, I knew I would be in for some quirky cultural differences. Seeing dog walkers walking 12 dogs at a time? Check. Seeing couples making out in cafes, plazas, public transportation, and basically every nook and cranny of Buenos Aires? Check. Finding mysterious pieces of ham in my “vegetarian” order? Check check and triple check.

However, one of the cultural quirks that really left me mystified was all the scooter motorcycles I would see about. I just thought it was a popular hobby of porteños, just as is rollerblading in quasi-90s gear at Los Bosques park. However, I soon realized that these cute motorcycles actually served a legitimate purpose.

From your weekly groceries to your dinner to alcohol to personal supplies, you can pretty much get anything you want delivered here. And you thought Americans were the ones with the Couch Potato reputation: move over yanquis, you’ve got some new competition. As if the plethora of confiterias (pastry shops) wasn’t enough of a constant weight gain threat. Forget the Freshman 15, we’re talking about the Abroad 30.

The best thing about the delivery (or as the porteños pronounce it, ) here is that the majority of delivery services comes without any extra charge. One of the best delivery services around hands-down is an organization called Buenos Aires Delivery. As if you thought delivery couldn’t be any lazier (see above), BA Delivery only further enables your couch potato lifestyle.

So how does BA Delivery work? First, go to the BA Delivery website, located at http://www.buenosairesdelivery.com. Then, enter in your address where you would like to get your food delivered to, and from this information, you can choose from a list of restaurants (divided into sub-categories such as Chinese Food, Pizza, International, etc) that can deliver in your area. Once you decide on your restaurant and your order, you click on the button that says “Pedir,” where, if you are a new customer, you will be prompted to fill out crucial delivery information such as your name, address, phone number, email address, etc. You also will need to fill in what kind of bill/amount you will be paying with so the restaurant knows how much change to give you back (and we all know how hard change is to come by in Buenos Aires). BA Delivery will then instantly send you a confirmation email, and then a few minutes later, you will get another email with the estimated delivery time. Then, viola! Your food appears quicker than a David Blaine magic trick, and the only energy you end up expending is when the delivery guy arrives and you have to put in the hard labor take the elevator down to the lobby to pay for your food.

Unfortunately, as we can’t rely on BA Delivery to do all the dirty work for us, my colleagues and I decided to leave you with a few important tips to facilitate your Buenos Aires delivery experience:

Remember to Relay Important Information

Leaving out one detail in your order can be the difference between empanada nirvana and a bowl of cereal drenched in your own tears. Ok, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but in all seriousness, you can’t always rely on the restaurant to ask you for all the important information, so be proactive and make sure you provide the following:

  • Your actual order (Or you might end up with a dry lomo sandwich instead of a juicy hamburger. Sadly, this is a true story)
  • Phone number (Even better if you have a landline)
  • Address as well as cross street
  • How much money you will be paying with (To ensure proper change)

Finally, ask how long it will take to deliver your food. Don’t accept en un ratito as a legitimate answer – we all know how that story ends. Instead, get a solid number out of them so you have at least a general idea of when that glorified empanada might come.

Speaking of Empanadas…

 

Try to branch out from empanadas from time to time. While empanadas are attractive because they are cheap and delicious, Buenos Aires actually has a wide selection of great food to offer, and if you look hard enough, at a reasonable cost. To help streamline that process, Guía Oleo is a great website to check out. It offers a guide to restaurants based on type of food, neighborhood, price range, etc, which makes it easy to rapidly find the type of food you are looking for (Thai Food, Barrio Chino, less than AR$50, GO). While not all the restaurants listed offer delivery services, you get a wider array of options than Buenos Aires Delivery, along with reviews of the restaurant, restaurant address, and contact information.

Don’t Order Sushi on a Friday Night

Sushi is actually quite the popular food item in Buenos Aires, and while rolls generally consist of 60% cream cheese (or Philadelphia, as they call it), porteños go crazy for it. Don’t try to test your fate with a sushi order on a Friday night – it could take several hours for those 12 cream cheese-stuffed seaweed appetizers to get delivered to you. Or even worse, it could get stuck in Delivery Oblivion and never end up getting to your apartment at all.

Double Check the Price

Think you’re safe because the menu you used to order off of is only 3 weeks old? Think again. Seeing as inflation doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, don’t expect prices to stay the same for that long. Confirm that 14 peso dish is actually 14 pesos so you don’t end up with an 18 peso surprise.

 

Also, on a price note, Buenos Aires is the land of efectivo, meaning you should tuck away your credit card and be ready with cash on hand when your food arrives.

Use a Fake Name

Especially if you have a super extranjero sounding name, using your real name will just confuse the person on the other line and cut five minutes out of your life every time you order. While Jenn seems to be one of those few names that’s awkwardly in flux (I usually just end up porteña-izing  my name by saying Shhhennnyyy), and thus preventing me from having the courage to use an alias, one of my co-workers has his go-to alias as Andrés, which allows him to avoid unnecessary confusion and complications.

Know the Tipping Rules

Unless specified by the place you are ordering from, it is not required to tip (which of course will make your wallet happier). However, if the delivery guy went 4 barrios over to bring you that super complicated order of yours, it just might be buena onda to kick in a few extra pesos.

These are just some basic tips to help get you started with the delivery culture in Buenos Aires. Now if you’ll excuse me, my empanadas are here.

Picture credis (Delivery: Mark Tee, Empandas: Beatrice Murch, Menu: Daniel Lobo, Pesos: Alex Proimos